tampabay.com

QB faces charge of selling beer to minor

USF quarterback Matt Grothe, last year's Big East rookie of the year, faces a misdemeanor charge of selling alcohol to an underage person after being arrested last week while working at a Bulls-themed sports bar.

By GREG AUMAN
Published April 28, 2007


TAMPA - USF quarterback Matt Grothe, last year's Big East rookie of the year, faces a misdemeanor charge of selling alcohol to an underage person after being arrested last week while working at a Bulls-themed sports bar.

According to an incident report Grothe, 20, was behind the bar April 19 at the Bull Ring Sports Bar, near campus on Fowler Avenue. He served two beers to an 18-year-old who was working with officers from the state's Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco.

The arrest is unlikely to result in significant disciplinary action from coach Jim Leavitt, and Grothe, a redshirt freshman, probably won't draw more from the legal system than probation and community service. However, it seems USF was unaware the most prominent athlete on campus was working at least occasionally in a job serving alcohol and taking tips at a place where the school encourages fans and boosters to gather.

"I had heard something happened, but I didn't know what, " Leavitt said Friday when asked about the arrest. "He's not working there anymore." Asked if he had known Grothe was working there before the incident, Leavitt said he did not, and when asked if anyone at USF knew, he said "(I'm) unsure. But somebody is supposed to."

Athletic director Doug Woolard did not respond Friday to requests for comment, and Grothe did not return messages.

Leavitt was one of several Bulls coaches whose radio shows were hosted at the restaurant and bar last season.

Grothe's employment at Bull Ring is neither illegal nor in violation of NCAA regulations. Anyone over age 18 in Florida can legally serve alcohol in a licensed establishment, and NCAA rules do not limit a job a scholarship athlete can hold, so long as he is paid appropriately for actual work.

However, NCAA spokeswoman Jennifer Kearns, in addressing the situation hypothetically, said, "If an athlete is getting tips, and other people in the same establishment aren't being tipped equally, that's something that boosters would need to be careful about."

According to the incident report, an 18-year-old male entered Bull Ring at 10:40 p.m. with his valid driver license, which was checked at the door. He was not given a wristband to indicate he was 21 or older, and went directly to the bar and ordered the beers. Grothe did not request an ID and asked for $6, and after payment was made, an officer stepped in. Grothe was given a notice to appear in court next month.

A man who identified himself as a general manager at the Bull Ring but would not give his full name had "absolutely no comment" Friday. Asked how often Grothe worked there, he said "I have no idea."